AUGUSTA – The Pilgrims are coming to Augusta on Thursday, Aug. 7, arriving as part of a reenactment of the 1628 voyage to the Kennebec River that resulted in the opening of the fur trade between the Plymouth Colony and Kennebec area Indians.

This year marks the 375th anniversary of that voyage. The Pilgrim John Howland Society, an organization composed of the descendants of John Howland, a Plymouth Colony leader and manager of the fur trading post built by the Pilgrims at Cushnoc in 1628, will sail a replica of the shallop that Howland and others used from Plymouth, Mass., to Augusta via the Kennebec River. The itinerary is as follows:

Depart Plymouth July 28; at Rockport, Mass., July 29; at the Isles of Shoals, July 30; at Kennebunkport, July 31; at Portland, Aug. 2; at Popham (Kennebec River), Aug. 4; at Bath, Aug. 5; at Richmond (Swan Island), Aug. 6; at Cushnoc (Augusta), Aug. 7.

Practicing little agriculture of their own, Kennebec area Indians in the 17th century were apparently willing to trade furs for corn in order to acquire an easily-storable supplement to their regular diet of meat, fish, berries and other forest and seacoast foods.

The Pilgrims came to Massachusetts as part of a joint-stock investment company formed not only to settle new lands but to return a profit to the investors. They soon looked to become involved in the fur trade and eventually built several trading posts in what are now Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine.

Of all such posts, the one at Cushnoc, in part at least in the beginning because of the lack of competition from Dutch and other English firms, proved most successful and by 1644, the Pilgrims had discharged their original and subsequent settlement debts.

Trade afterward slowed, and by the early 1660s the Pilgrims had sold their trading patent and Cushnoc post. The descendants of those who purchased the patent formed a new Plymouth Company in 1749 and, doing business as the Kennebec Proprietors, constructed Fort Western, also at Cushnoc, in 1754.

Because of the vagaries of wind, tide and current, it is not known exactly at what time the shallop will reach Augusta (or any of her other destination ports). The public is invited to be on hand to welcome the Elizabeth Tilley and her crew, along the way and at Cushnoc. Watch for updates on the bulletin board at http://www.oldfortwestern.org.

A set of color photographs documenting shallop construction may be found at http://www.plimoth.org/new_shallop/newshallop.htm.



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